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Scene 7

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Polio

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as America's 32nd President from 1933 to 1945. He served a record four terms as the nation's President. Born in Hyde Park, New York, in 1882, Roosevelt's parents, along with private tutors, provided him with nearly all of his formative education. From 1896 to 1900, he attended Groton Preparatory School in Massachusetts. He graduated with a degree in History from Harvard University in 1903 and then studied law at Columbia University in New York. Roosevelt entered politics in 1910 upon being elected to the New York State Senate. From 1913 to 1920, he served as Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. In 1920, James M. Cox ran for President of the United States, and the Democratic Party chose Roosevelt as his Vice Presidential running mate. However, their bid for office was unsuccessful, and Roosevelt temporarily ended his career in politics. In 1921, while on vacation at Campobello Island in New Brunswick, he contracted polio and ultimately lost the use of his legs. Encouragement from his family and closest political advisors helped Roosevelt resume his political career, and in 1928, he was elected Governor of New York. After being reelected Governor in 1930, he began his campaign for the Presidency, and in 1932, with the nation still in the depths of the Great Depression, was elected President over Herbert Hoover. As President, Roosevelt faced two major crises: lifting America out of the Great Depression and, during his third and fourth terms, guiding the country through World War II. To combat the effects of the Depression, he developed a number of programs known as the "New Deal" that put many Americans back to work and stimulated the economy. These programs included laws to reform the nation's banks, emergency relief programs, work relief programs, and agricultural programs. Agencies established under the New Deal included the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

To assist in the war effort, Roosevelt created a "grand alliance" that aligned the United States with Britain, Russia, and China in the fight against Germany, Italy, and Japan. After Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States formally entered the war. Roosevelt worked closely with his military advisers, overriding them when necessary, and took an active role in making decisions regarding wartime strategy. The unending stress and strain of the war, however, literally wore Roosevelt out. During a vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died 2½ hours later. He was 63 years old. His death came on the eve of complete military victory in Europe and within months of victory over Japan in the Pacific.

The Little White House

In 1924, Franklin Delano Roosevelt first visited Warm Springs, Georgia, with the hope that the warm mineral springs flowing in the area would help cure the paralysis believed to be the result of his contracting polio three years earlier. While swimming in the warm spring waters did not result in a miracle cure, it did bring improvements. As a result, Roosevelt invested most of his savings in property at Warm Springs in 1926 and incorporated the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in 1927 with the goal of finding a cure for polio and serving as a treatment center for polio patients. The Foundation originally consisted of a pool complex and treatment center designed by architect Henry Toombs. In 1932, while serving as Governor of New York, Roosevelt worked closely with Toombs on designing a small, six-room cottage near the springs that would later become known as the "Little White House". The house and its associated landscaping were built for less than $9,000. Situated on the north slope of Pine Mountain in Meriwether County, the Little White House functioned as a rural retreat for Roosevelt. Between 1932 and 1945, he visited the Little White House on just sixteen occasions and died there on April 12, 1945. The house was first opened to the public as a museum in 1948 and is currently operated by the Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The Secret Service

The United States Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865, in Washington, D.C., to investigate counterfeiting operations of U.S. currency. Two years later, its responsibilities were expanded to include the investigation of any acts of fraud against the United States government. As a result, crimes involving bootlegging, smuggling, and the robbery of the U.S. Mail Service fell under the responsibility of the Secret Service. In 1883, the Secret Service was officially recognized as part of the U.S. Treasury Department. After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the President. This protection was later extended to the President's family as well as foreign leaders or other official guests as directed by the President. In 2002, the Secret Service was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. It remains committed to its dual mission of protecting national and foreign leaders and taking part in criminal investigations.

Additional Reading

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Official White House Biography)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Georgia (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation (New Georgia Encyclopedia)


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